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“Frankenstein”: Mary Shelley
Fundamentally, the problem with this book is the narrator, Victor. He is thoroughly detestable. A selfish, cowardly, irresponsible, excuse ridden, narcissistic d****e-bag of the highest order. And unfortunately, it is Victor Frankenstein’s POV that we are forced into for the majority of the novel. My hatred for and frustration with the self-pitying, feckless behaviour of the (pseudo) protagonist made this an irritating read for me- and to an extent I think this was Shelley’s intention. Victor isn’t designed to be the likable, affable, morally “good” man fallen from grace he believes himself to be, and the horrific events that befall those around him are of his making. However, this doesn’t make him any less grating!
The "monster" (to me reminiscent of Caliban with his lyrical speech and enforced isolation, being neither man nor not man) is eloquent and persuasive when he asks his creator to account for his misdoings. So, you’ve got to ask yourself, if an infanticidal, demonic, bag of sewn together corpses is actually more engaging than the main storyteller, is that storyteller really the right character to be telling the story?
Now, with all that said, it is an important book. A work by a female author with strong female characters (albeit background characters) who was only nineteen when she wrote the initial draft. Very impressive. But, for me her youth is evident. When we teach secondary school pupils to write creatively, we often give them the ambiguous instruction “show don’t tell”, and for me the book is more of a list of horrible and horrific events told in a Chinese puzzle box style story within a story, rather than an engaging and “complete” narrative. It feels like she chooses to place focus on the wrong “bits”- for example the whole of chapter nineteen where Victor travels the British Isles, comments briefly on the local architecture of each town and city and then repetitively reminds us that he couldn’t enjoy the surroundings because of his angst. And I would have at least like to have seen some of the courtroom drama when Victor is tried for the death of Clerval...
So, I hate to be “that” gal, who poo-poos these fantastic works of fiction (we know they’re great because some clever-britches told us they were) but in all honesty, the novel ain’t that good, and I’ll maintain that stance no matter how clever the britches of the opposing schools of thought. I think the continuing appeal is in it’s universal themes: parenting, nature versus nurture; morality and scientific advancement- and the whole idea of stitching a creature out of corpse-parts and electrocuting it to life is pretty darn cool. And there are some really effective horror scenes, such as the vignette of Victor ripping apart project lady-monster (I kind wish she had a name- a working title- but given he can’t even be bothered to name monster number one I guess this was all too much to hope for).
It’s readable, but it’s value, for me at any rate, lies in the offshoots and creativity it has spawned, rather than the work itself.